Although never formally signed, an oral agreement between John Coltrane and Blue Note Records founder Alfred Lion was indeed honored on Blue Train -- Coltrane's only collection of sides as a principal artist for the venerable label.
The disc is packed solid with sonic evidence of Coltrane's innate leadership abilities. He not only addresses the tunes at hand, but also simultaneously reinvents himself as a multifaceted interpreter of both hard bop as well as sensitive balladry -- touching upon all forms in between.
The personnel on Blue Train is arguably as impressive as what they're playing. Joining Coltrane (tenor sax) are Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Kenny Drew (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). The triple horn arrangements incorporate an additional sonic density that remains a trademark unique to both this band and album. Of particular note is Fuller's even-toned trombone, which bops throughout the title track as well as the frenetic "Moments Notice." Other solos include Paul Chambers' subtly understated riffs on "Blue Train" as well as the high energy and impact from contributions by Lee Morgan and Kenny Drew during "Locomotion." The track likewise features some brief but vital contributions from Philly Joe Jones -- whose efforts throughout the record stand among his personal best. Of the five sides that comprise the original Blue Train, the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer ballad "I'm Old Fashioned" is the only standard; in terms of unadulterated sentiment, this version is arguably untouchable. Fuller's rich tones and Drew's tastefully executed solos cleanly wrap around Jones' steadily languid rhythms. Without reservation, Blue Train can easily be considered in and among the most important and influential entries not only of John Coltrane's career, but of the entire genre of jazz music as well. [In the spring of 1997, The Ultimate Blue Train CD was released, boasting 20-bit remastered audio as well as one alternate take of both "Blue Train" and "Lazy Bird."
1 Blue Train
2 Moment's Notice
4 I'm Old Fashioned
5 Lazy Bird
6 Blue Train [alt take]
7 Lazy Bird [alt take]
John Coltrane Sax (Tenor)
Paul Chambers Bass
Kenny Drew Piano
Curtis Fuller Trombone
Philly Joe Jones Drums
Lee Morgan Trumpet
Originally recorded 1957 on the Blue Note Lable. This CD issue is from 2003 and remains factory sealed.
BLUE TRAIN (1957) is a classic; an album often heralded as one of the greatest records of the 1950s by fans and jazz educators alike. It gives the listener a very clear view of what made these musicians so great. You will notice things like Coltrane's (and pianist Kenny Drew's) tasteful and masterful usage of the blues scale in the chant-like title cut. Many musicians have the tendency to drive that scale into the ground when playing the blues. Not so here: these guys were well beyond that sort of thing. On Jerome Kern's "I'm Old Fashioned," you will hear Coltrane's (or was it Kenny Drew's?) ascending-stepwise reharmonization. The Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller solos on "Locomotion" are a delight, but that's true of the entire album.
It is well known that the Coltrane composition "Giant Steps" (released in 1959) is a bear to play, to improvise on the changes. But, even here, Coltrane was writing tunes that could shake a few people up. "Moment's Notice" is one such tune. It has an ABAC structure (8 bars, 8 bars, 8 bars, 14 bars: a total of 38 bars for one time through)--hard enough to follow--along with a barrage of formidable chord changes. Some say the song got its name when Curtis Fuller asked, "You expect me to play these changes at a moment's notice?"
BLUE TRAIN is certainly deserving of being hailed as a "classic," a term grossly overused these days. Imagination or creativity doesn't always come in the form of extreme busyness, and if you give this album your full attention, it will offer riches galore. There is good reason why BLUE TRAIN is listed on many a jazz educator's essential recordings list: It IS essential. (Seeing that this reissue gives you all the bonus extras, I can't see going for the earlier one.)
All come with jewel case, liner booklet and the CD disc itself.
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